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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Big Prices, Bigger Drama Surround Ambitious Paris Olympics

  • New protocol will separate those watching opening ceremony for free from paying fans
  • Relocation of homeless people, high ticket prices drawing criticism
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The organizing committee for the 2024 Paris Games is planning the largest opening ceremony at any Olympics ever — but at significant human and financial costs.

The Games will begin with an elaborate parade along the River Seine, with plans to draw hundreds of thousands of fans along the route, marking the most ambitious opening ceremony ever — and one intended to revive the event after a pair of editions spoiled by the pandemic.

To pull that off, the French government introduced a new protocol in which those wishing to watch for free must pre-register for tickets and will be separated from about 100,000 projected to pay as much as $2,900 each for closer, waterside views. 

The government also plans to relocate homeless people out of Paris ahead of the Olympics, opening up hotels that authorities use to provide emergency accommodations, but also fueling outcry from regional towns expected to house those people.

Meanwhile, further criticism is growing, even from athletes, over high ticket prices to many individual events, leading committee president Tony Estanguet this week to acknowledge the frustration — even while touting more than 6.8 million tickets sold.

Making matters worse, Brigitte Henriques, the president of France’s Olympic Committee and the first woman to lead Olympic sports in the country, resigned on Thursday after months of heavy infighting within the organization. Astrid Guyart, that committee’s general secretary, will assume the role on a temporary basis before a successor is chosen this summer.

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